Posts tagged ‘Code.org’
Does pre-service CS education reduce the costs and make more effective in-service PD? Paths to #CS4All
What we’re trying to achieve in CS education in the United States is rarely done (successfully) and hasn’t been done in several decades (see previous post on this). We’re changing the education canon, what everyone is taught in schools. It’s a huge effort, involving standards and frameworks, convincing principals and legislators, and developing teachers and curricula.
Right now, we’re mostly developing the teachers we need with in-service education — which is expensive. We’re shipping around trainers, people providing professional development to existing teachers. We’re paying travel costs (sometimes) to teachers, and stipends (sometimes) for their time.
I have argued previously that we have to move to a pre-service model, where new teachers are prepared to be CS teachers from undergraduate education. It’s the only way to have a sustainable flow of CS teachers into the education system. NYC is working on developing per-service programs now, because it’s a necessity for their CS education mandate. No reform takes root in US schools without being in schools of education.
At a meeting of the Georgia CS Task Force, where talking about the high costs of in-service CS teacher education, we started wondering if the costs might be cheaper in the long-run by growing pre-service education, rather than scaling in-service. Of course, we have to build a critical mass cohort of in-service teachers (e.g., to provide mentors for student teachers) — in many states, we’ve already done that.
Creating pre-service programs at state universities creates opportunities for in-service education that are cheaper and maybe more effective than what we’re creating today. Pre-service programs would require CS Education faculty (and likely, graduate students) at state universities. These people are then resources.
- First, those faculty are now offering pre-service PD, which is necessary for sustainability.
- Regional high school and elementary school teachers could then go to the local university for in-service programs — which can be run more cheaply at the university, than at a downtown hotel or conference center with presenters shipped in from elsewhere.
- The CS Ed faculty are there as a resource for regional high school teachers for follow-up, and the follow-up is a critical part of actually instituting new curricula.
- Many education schools offer resources (e.g., curriculum libraries, help with teacher questions) that would be useful to CS teachers and are available locally with people who can answer questions.
Pre-service programs require more up-front costs (e.g., paying for faculty, setting up programs). But those costs likely amortize over the lifetime of the faculty and the program. Each individual professional development session offered by local faculty (either pre-service or in-service) is cheaper than each in-service session created by non-local presenters/developers. Over many years, it is likely cheaper to pay the higher up-front costs for pre-service than the long, expensive burn of in-service.
I don’t know how to figure out the cost trade-off, but it might be worthwhile for providers like Code.org and PLTW to play out the scenarios.
Top business leaders, 27 governors, urge Congress to boost computer science education – The Washington Post
I saw on Facebook that Hadi Partovi was at Congress. Now I see why — there’s an effort underway to get Congress to fund more in CS education. I’m wondering what they want to get funded. Incentives for teachers? Professional development? Pre-service education? Does someone know the details?
Despite this groundswell, three-quarters of U.S. schools do not offer meaningful computer science courses. At a time when every industry in every state is impacted by advances in computer technology, our schools should give all students the opportunity to understand how this technology works, to learn how to be creators, coders, and makers — not just consumers. Instead, what is increasingly a basic skill is only available to the lucky few, leaving most students behind, particularly students of color and girls.
How is this acceptable? America leads the world in technology. We invented the personal computer, the Internet, e-commerce, social networking, and the smartphone. This is our chance to position the next generation to participate in the new American Dream.
I’ve mentioned the K12 CS Framework Process a couple of times before (see this blog post). It’s now available for public comment.
Individuals and institutions are invited to be reviewers of the K-12 CS framework. Institutions, such as state/district departments of education and organizations (industry, companies, non-profits), are responsible for selecting an individual or a group to represent the institution. Reviewers can choose to participate in one or both of the two review periods:
- Feb 3 to Feb 17: Review of the 9-12 grade band concepts and practices
- March 14 to April 1: Review of the entire K-12 concepts and practices
There will be a public webinar (save this link) to launch the first review period on Feb 3 at 8pm ET / 5pm PT. Learn about the development of the framework and how to provide an effective review.
Find different instructions for individuals and facilitators of group reviews, including an informational session kit for review group facilitators at http://k12cs.org/review. Visit this page after 9 am on Feb 3rd and you’ll be able to access the framework draft and an online feedback form for the first public review
Lian Halbert, K-12 CS Framework development staff
P.S. Are you attending SIGCSE 2016 in Memphis this March 2-5? We will hold a Birds of a Feather session on Thursday March 3 for all SIGCSE attendees – feel free to invite folks so they can learn about the K-12 CS framework.
Code.org has just released an interesting survey about their Hour of Code initiative. They’ve been criticized for providing only an hour and overly focusing on puzzles (see Mitchel Resnick’s article here). The results suggest that they’re reaching a diverse audience, and having an effect beyond an hour — students keep going, and teachers start teaching CS.
Programming is a literacy, and no one develops any kind of literacy in just an hour of practice. Games are not the most interesting and powerful kinds of programming activities.
But they’re a start. Particularly when we get past the Inverse Lake Wobegon Effect of thinking about students as being like us. We know from many studies that students are afraid of computer programming. I’m teaching Media Computation again this semester, and at least a third of the students who have come talk to me after class have started their conversation with, “I’m one of those people who just don’t do computers.” And that’s just those self-reporting without prompting! Students associate CS with being a geek and wouldn’t want to let their friends know they like computer science, even if they do. Few students get any kind of computer science education outside of Hour of Code.
When we think about most people, sustained activity in programming for one hour can go a long way to reducing fear, increasing self-efficacy, and nurturing interest. (Consider an Hour of Code compared to less than <5 minutes typically spent at a museum exhibit.) Games are a useful place to start because they’re well-structured. Aptitude-treatment interaction tells us that more structure is better with students who have less background in a subject. Open-ended, constructionist activities like those that Mitchel is promoting are more successful with more privileged students, those who have more experience which results in higher-ability students. The Hour of Code can help inspire students to get that additional experience needed to develop more ability.) An Hour of Code is a good first step for the remedial state of computing education in the United States today.
Hooray for Hour of Code, and thanks to Code.org for promoting it and for sharing these data.
The onus is on us to turn the Hour of Code into a Lifetime of Computational Literacy.
After the Hour of Code, we asked participating organizers how it went and got some fantastic news for our field.
- 98% had a good or great experience.
- 85% of those new to computer science said the Hour of Code increased their interest in teaching computer science.
- 49% said they plan to continue teaching computer science beyond one hour.
- 18% said they began teaching computer science after a previous Hour of Code campaign!
- 87% said their students did more than just one hour of coding.
I wrote my May Blog@CACM post on the “Babble of Computing Education,” about the wide variety of perspectives, definitions, and cross-purposes going on in the US in computing education. At the end, I talk about the new Code.org partnership with the College Board and how this may reduce the Babble — the definition of CS Principles will become Code.org. Owen Astrachan, co-PI of the NSF CS Principles grant, and I have a bet for dinner and beer that we made on Facebook. I predict that in the first offering of the AP CS Principles exam, more than 50% of the schools that teach CSP and send students to the exam will be using Code.org curricula. He thinks that there will be greater diversity.
I don’t know how the new partnerships announced below fit into our bet. BJC, PLTW, and other curricula are now going to be promoted by Code.org as their partners. Will a school adopt BJC because Code.org recommends it? I think that’s likely. Will the school believe that they are adopting a curriculum out of Berkeley or a Code.org curriculum? I expect the latter. From schools’ perspective, all the eleven new partners will be Code.org curricula. The definition of CS Principles will become Code.org. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — that may provide a corporate face that will assure administrators in schools who don’t know CS.
“Code.org’s courses already reach millions of students globally in grades K-8,” Partovi said. “But as we expand in high school, we work region by region, and we can’t do it all. We’re leading a movement and we need partners to help.”
When Code.org meets with school districts, it will now also highlight the new partnerships as alternative ways to teach computer science versus utilizing Code.org’s own programs.
Hadi Partovi of Code.org has a blog post (see here) with data from their on-line classes. He’s making the argument that classroom teachers are super important for diversity and for student success.
Learning #1: Classrooms progress farther than students studying alone
In the graph below, the X axis is student age, the Y axis is their average progress in our courses. The blue line is students in classrooms with teachers. The red line is students studying without a classroom/teacher.
Learning #3: The ethnic backgrounds of students with teachers are impressively diverse
The data below doesn’t come from all students, because (for privacy reasons) we do not allow students to tell us their ethnic background. This chart was collected via an opt-in survey of teachers in the U.S. offering our courses, and as such is susceptible to inaccuracy. The picture it paints helps confirm our thesis that by integrating computer science into younger-aged classrooms in public schools, we can increase the diversity of students learning computer science.
I’m sure that there were a lot of outreach activities going on in Georgia, too. I wasn’t involved in those. I want to report on two points of progress in Georgia that was more at an infrastructural level.
Chris Klaus (as I mentioned in this blog previously) has gathered stakeholders in a “Georgia Coding” group to push on improving computing in Georgia. That effort bore fruit during CSedWeek. Georgia had its first “Day of Code,” but Barb and I were most excited to visit the Georgia Professional Standards Commission website on Monday to see this:
All the high school IT/CS classes in Georgia can now be taught by teachers with Mathematics or Science certifications. Previously, only Business Education and Mathematics teachers could teach AP CS, and only Business Education teachers could teach other IT/CS classes. (Even though AP CS counted as a science credit, science teachers couldn’t teach it.) Now, it’s all open. It’s much easier to teach Math and Science teachers about CS than Business Education teachers. Now, we have a much larger pool of possible teachers to recruit into CS classes. I’m grateful that Georgia House Representative Mike Dudgeon took this from the Georgia Coding group and made it happen.
On Thursday, I hosted a Transfer Summit at Georgia Tech. We had 15 attendees from 11 different institutions in the University System of Georgia, some two-year-mostly institutions and others four-year degree institutions.
The goal was to ease transfer between the schools. This was a strategy that CAITE used successfully to increase the diversity in computing programs in Massachusetts. Two year programs are much more diverse than universities (see some data here), but only about 25% of the students who want to transfer do so. Part of our strategy with ECEP is to set up these meetings where we get schools to smooth out the bumps to ease the transition.
I learned a lot about transfer at this meeting. For example, I learned that it’s often unsuccessful to have students take all their General Education requirements at the two-year institution and then transfer to the four-year institution, because that leaves just intense CS classes for the last two years — no easier classes. At some schools, the pre-requisite chains prevent students from even getting a full load of just-CS classes, since students have to pass the pre-req before they can take the follow-on class.
At the end of the meeting, we had 9 new transfer agreements in-progress. Some of the participants had come to a similar meeting last year, and they said that they were able to make more progress this year because they knew what to have ready. Wayne Summers from Columbus State actually came with a whole new agreement with Georgia Perimeter College (a two-year institution) already worked out and ready to discuss with GPC representatives. I was grateful that GPC brought three faculty to the meeting, so that they could have multiple agreements worked out in parallel.
Getting math and science teachers into high school CS classes and helping students in two-year institutions move on to bachelors degrees isn’t as flashy as the Hour of Code and programming at White House. Teacher certifications and transfer agreements are important when we move beyond the first hour and want to create pathways for students to pursue computing through graduation.